This game started ugly... really ugly. The Bearcats started the game with turnovers on 4 of their first 5 possessions, and at one point the announcers pointed out that in the first 11 possessions there were 8 turnovers. The Bearcats ended the game with an unacceptable 18 turnovers, and all five starters had at least 2 turnovers.
Cincinnati shot a dismal 31.6% from the field in the first half, most of which had to do with shot selection. If you wait until the last 10 seconds of the shot clock to move around, you are going to only have 1 or maybe 2 opportunities for a shot. However, if the players consistently move, themselves as well as the ball, for the duration of the shot clock, they can be more selective with their shot choice. This is very easy to write, but very difficult to implement against top Division-I competition. In the second half, Cincinnati turned things around ended up shooting 46.3 percent from the field.
So how did the Bearcats win? How they always do - with defense. They held an SMU team averaging 71.5 points per game to a season low 50 points (previous season low was 56 against current AP #7 Gonzaga). The scouting report on SMU was to watch out for Nic Moore and Marcus Kennedy. Nic Moore was held to 11 points (14.8 ave.) and made 6 turnovers (2.8 ave.). Marcus Kennedy was held to 7 points (12.4 ave. last year) on 3-10 shooting. I used last year average for Kennedy, because he has only played a couple of years this year due to not meeting academic requirements.
Players from both sides knew coming into today that this was one of a few games that they each would play to decide the conference regular season champions. In a top heavy leagues, it appears that the conference will come down to how SMU, Cincinnati, Memphis, Temple, and UCONN play against each other. Temple has already beat a shorthanded UCONN squad (Ryan Boatright missed the second half), and tonight Cincinnati won 56-50.
Forget what your perception is of Cincinnati. Like you, I think we have a lot of players who can chuck it from deep. The obvious ones are Cobb, Johnson, and Sanders. The truth is, Cincinnati came into today the second worst three point shooting team in the conference at 28.5% (USF worst at 28%). Do you need some more reality? Our "good" three points shooters, shoot 31.5% (Cobb), 26.3% (Johnson), and 33.3% (Sanders) from deep. In fact, we don't have a single player in the top-15 in the conference in 3pt field goal percentage. That being said...
Farad Cobb wants to win, and wants to be a part of that winning. He's already put up 24 points in a game this year, and today it seemed like he wanted to beat that career high. Suffering from winners amnesia, he doesn't care if he missed a shot 3 seconds ago from the exact spot he is about to pull from. He has the confidence that I wish Shaq Thomas and Jermaine Sanders could borrow at times. In the first half, the Bearcats offense was stagnant and didn't really look like what most would call basketball. Cobb decided that it needed to change. In the second half he went off scoring 15-points in the half and ended with a game high 18-points. The big negative with Cobb is free throw shooting. Tell me - How does a shooter make 66.7% from the line?!
Ellis got things started offensively tonight with a 15-foot jump shot, and had a quick 6. He then decided he wanted to become an interior passer by making multiple bounce passes to DeBerry (who isn't developed enough yet to handle the tough bounce pass) in the paint. In the second half, he started shooting again and I learned that Ellis can shoot a left handed layup.
My last individual highlight is Gary Clark. This kid continues to impress. Tonight he clocked in his traditional 8 points with 7 rebounds, along with 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block. Clark's consistency is unbelievable. He has had at least 5 rebounds in all but one game this season (4 against NC State). If his numbers increase from year to year (currently averages 8 points and 7 rebounds), Clark could very likely average a double-double in a year or two.
At this point in the season, some additional roles have been established that are worth noting. Troy Caupain is our go-to-guy when we are up late. His shimmy style free throw shooting makes him an ideal candidate to close games out. Also, Jermaine Sanders takes the ball out late in games. His experience along with his calm demeanor make him an ideal candidate for this. He has been pretty good this year getting the ball in and calling timeouts when he can't. It seems strange, but I really like the idea of having the same guy take the ball out late in games. It builds consistency and substantial individual experience. The only problem is that Jermaine shoots 46.2% from the free throw line. I like to think that is largely a sample size issue, since he has only shot 13 free throws so far this year - but still. C'mon man!! Once he gets the ball in to Caupain (which essentially is his goal), he needs to run away from the ball as fast as he can.
-Daniele "Da" Bologna